Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
Episode 5 of Thirty Nine begins in the past, with a young Mi-Jo helping her mum fold the washing after Mi-Hyun has gone missing. With classical music playing, she comments how the music is warm. The pair connect over this as Mi-Jo cracks a smile.
We then jump back to the present where Seon-U ends up in a big row with So-Won outside the club. She bitterly retorts that they’re not family anymore, which hurts Seon-U deeply as he struggles to hold it together.
When So-Won heads back in the club, he reflects on her words… and spots Mi-Jo and the other women across the road. He walks away, with Mi-Jo deciding not to check on him. She immediately brightens up though and heads off to get something to eat.
In the morning, Mi-Jo speaks to Seon-U, who avoids eye contact and looks pretty anxious. Eventually he opens up, admitting So-Won is his sister.
Mi-Jo suggests she’s in a difficult place but Seon-U shrugs her concerns aside, pointing out that she has enough on her plate as it is.
Some of those problems are vented to her doctor, where we learn Mi-Jo isn’t having panic attacks quite so frequently. He prescribes her some medicine and encourages Mi-Jo to think on the good memories with Chan-Young rather than worrying about the future.
Funnily enough, she spots Chan-Young on the other side of the subway while waiting to go home. Chan-Young is upset after seeing a couple of schoolgirls walking, reminding her of her friendship with Mi-Jo.
The pair don’t need to say anything when they lock eyes, their expressions speak volumes. They eventually do meet up in the terminal, where they decide to go for food together.
Chan-Young admits she wants Mi-Jo by her side, revealing that she doesn’t want to be alone and that she’s scared about dying. Chan-Young is also very reflective, thinking over all the moments in her life – and the people within that – which could have turned out differently.
After finishing their dishes, they walk together, where Chan-Young encourages Mi-Jo to follow her heart and pursue Seon-U. Given how quickly they slept together, Chan-Young reminds her he must be pretty important to her to have that sort of reaction.
When they part ways, Jin-Seok meets Chan-Young and admits that she’s spoken to Ju-Won about the divorce. He also wants her to get treatment too but Chan-Young still refuses, pointing out that this would only be delaying the inevitable rather than actually curing her.
Seon-U heads off to the club again, asking the owner for Su-Won’s address. When he shows up, he thinks twice about knocking and instead leaves a gift for her on the door and walks away. Seon-U does leave a message for her, letting her know he’s been there. So what’s in the bag? Well, it happens to be a watch.
Off the back of this, So-Won shows up at the clinic with a big smile on her face. She shows in his office just as Mi-Jo appears, asking to head for lunch.
Mi-Jo cancels her plans and has lunch with the other workers instead, who all start gossiping over whether Seon-U has a girlfriend. When Mi-Jo reveals it’s his little sister, the group quieten.
Out at lunch, So-Won tells him not to ask her to play piano anymore. If he does, she’ll run away. She also side-steps around his question asking to live together, and reveals that she’s left the job at the club too.
So-Won apologizes, which is enough for Seon-u to crack a smile and thank her for following his advice. This whole piano shindig is actually a direct result of their father, who Seon-U meets for dinner. He’s clearly brash and believes So-Won should be grateful for having such a good upbringing.
That night, Chan-Young has several wishes to fulfill before she passes. First up, she’s determined to help Joo-Hee find a boyfriend. For Mi-Jo, she wants to find her real mum. Despite Mi-Jo’s pleas, it’s final.
Meanwhile, Jin-Seok leaves Ju-Won, packing his things and preparing to go. He promises their son to talk soon, but when he leaves, he phones Chan-Young and lets her know.
Chan-Young though has bigger fish to fry, and that comes in the form of telling her parents what’s happening with her. She really struggles to get her words out over dinner, dodging the real crux of the issue as Mi-Jo sits awkwardly listening.
When the attention turns to Chan-Young’s check-up, she brushes off the truth by claiming she has “inflammation.”
After dinner, Chan-Young does hug them both and hands over a gift for them. A mother’s intuition is always right though, and she worries that something is going on with her daughter. Chan-Young feels regretful, commenting how her parents should have had another child to lessen the burden of losing her.
That night, Mi-Jo catches up with Seon-U, who feels depressed and reflects on how he wasn’t a great brother to So-Won.
Mi-Jo has experience of being in an orphanage of course, and questions Seon-U’s mental state, believing he’s overthinking the situation.
Seon-U decides to introduce her as his girlfriend to So-Won, as the most awkward kiss of the year ensues. Seon-U leans forward, Mi-Jo goes as stiff as a board and we see the uncomfortable kiss from three different angles. Eventually they head outside together, hand in hand.
In the morning, Seon-U phones So-Won and asks for help on how to move beyond first base with the “very eccentric” Mi-Jo.
The think is, she happens to be listening from the doorway and points out he should know how to move past first base. When Mi-Jo leaves, she heads back to see Chan-Young with Joo-Hee, who has been spending more time with Hyeon-Jun. However, the girls are exasperated to learn she’s actually helped fix his relationship again.
As the episode closes out, Mi-Jo heads in to meet So-Won at the clinic but unfortunately Seon-U’s father shows up too. The scared expression on her face reminds Mi-Jo of the anxiety she experienced from the orphanage, a reflection of her own past and holds her hand, intending to guide her through this.
The Episode Review
Thirty Nine returns this week with another dose of slice of life drama. Chan-young continues to dance around her diagnosis and telling everyone what’s happened, including letting her parents know. While I understand she’s just trying to protect them, it also feels a little mean given everyone else seems to know already.
Jin-Seok’s motives feel like they’re directly tied to Chan-Young’s terminal diagnosis too, while we haven’t seen a whole lot of Joo-Hee again this episode, as she constantly feels like a third wheel to this friendship between Chan-Young and Mi-Jo. That’s pretty funny given her story with the chef is arguably the best part of this show next to Chan-Young.
This sisterly bond is where the show is at its strongest and there’s a great deal of work done to really lean into this and make Chan-Young and Mi-Jo feel authentic. Props to the script writer for that because some of their dialogue is absolutely on the money and works beautifully to show the conflicting feeling the pair are going through. It’s just a pity that Joo-Hee doesn’t have that same effect.
Less desirable though is the romance between Mi-Jo and Seon-u which is riddled with coincidences, chance encounters and a distinct lack of chemistry.
I’m not sure if it’s just me but there feels like a distinct lack of chemistry between the pair and the moments they get intimate feel very awkward. This is especially apparent during the kissing sequence which felt really off. Mi-Jo looked really uncomfortable during that kiss and that’s something projected through to us, the audience.
However, the show does have its perks but given the big ensemble and ideas being thrown around, this one hasn’t quite crackled and shone as brightly as it perhaps should.